Gounod and Mistral – Mireille

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where Gounod's opera Mireille is set

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where Gounod’s opera Mireille is set

The video below is Vincent’s aria in the second scene of the fifth and final act of Charles Gounod’s 1864 opera Mireille, written the year before his remarkable Faust, based on the first part of Goethe’s play. Mireille contains fascinating music. The libretto is based on Frédéric Mistral’s long lyric poem Mirèio. Mistral was the 1904 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He wrote in his native language, Occitan, that is, la langue d’oc, of which Provençal is a variant. Gounod, who knew the 1859 French translation of Mistral’s poem, stayed in Provence during 1863 while at work on the opera, and met several times with Mistral.

The listener will feel, almost unconsciously, the emotional beauty of this aria, and the duality, and hence the unity, of the adoration and longing. The orchestration, in its apostrophe of the voice, is wondrous in its subtlety, sublime in the care it gives to the dialogue.

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